Graham Preston - Protect Life
Graham Preston - Protect Life

Queensland and "Voluntary Assisted Dying"

On March 31, 2020 the Queensland Parliamentary Committee which carried out an Inquiry into “Voluntary Assisted Dying” tabled their Findings and Recommendations.

During the year prior to the tabling of the report there had been 41 hearings held with 535 witnesses appearing and 4 729 written submissions were made. Many of the witnesses and submissions spoke eloquently of the problems and dangers that would come with legalizing “voluntary assisted dying (VAD)”. (For one thing, it was pointed out to the Committee that recipients of VAD don’t just die but rather, they are deliberately and directly killed by the administration of poison. It should be called “voluntary assisted killing (VAK)” but presumably that sounds too harsh, too honest).

Despite the flood of strong arguments against VAD/K, including the indisputable evidence of the slippery slope in action in countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands, and Canada, the committee members managed to overlook all of that. So, as expected, the Committee recommended that VAD/K be legalised. One cannot help but be suspicious that all the consultation was just window-dressing. (The Committee was made up of three Labor members, one Green and two LNPs.)

Page 3 old man hospital photoThe main reason that the Committee gave for recommending that VAD/K be legalised was their concern over the number of people with terminal and debilitating illnesses who commit suicide in Queensland. They state that the “National Coronial Information System for the period 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2017 identified 168 notifications of death to a Queensland coroner where the deceased died as a result of intentional self-harm and suffered from a terminal or debilitating physical condition.”  So out of their concern for the tragic loss of the lives of these people the Committee’s “solution” to the problem is to recommend that suicide assistance (killing) be made legally available to many more people! (but in a more controlled setting)

Despite all the evidence to the contrary from elsewhere, the Committee claims that regulations and “adequate safeguards” can be implemented and maintained.

The recommendations of particular interest/concern are:

  • VAD/K - eligibility should be restricted to people 18 years of age or older
  • eligibility should be restricted to citizens and permanent residents of Australia who are ordinarily resident in Queensland. But, this is immediately modified by, “The term ‘ordinarily resident’ should not be restricted”. (?)
  • a person must have an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative medical condition that cannot be alleviated in a manner acceptable to the person, and that the condition will cause death. The Committee acknowledges that the eligibility criteria should not prescribe specific timeframes within which death is likely to occur. In other words, a person does not need to be expected to die in the foreseeable future in order for them to be able to access VAD/K.
  • two independent medical practitioners (must) conduct assessments prior to the applicant accessing the scheme. However, it seems that in some circumstances one of these two “medical practitioners”, and perhaps even both, don’t need to be doctors – registered nurses will do. We are told, “To overcome the difficulty of access to two independent doctors in a rural or remote area, legislation for a voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland should allow flexibility such that a qualified nurse can undertake the assessment of applicants in rural and remote areas where a doctor or second independent doctor is not available to undertake the assessment and to administer the voluntary assisted dying medication if required”!
  • mental illness does not automatically exclude someone from access to VAD/K.
  • applicants seeking to access VAD/K are not required to receive counselling
  • discussion with a medical practitioner about accessing voluntary assisted dying can be instigated only by the person wishing to access voluntary assisted dying
  • health practitioners who may have a conscientious objection to participating in voluntary assisted dying may opt not to participate, provided that the rights of the patients to access the scheme are also protected

With Parliament in recess due to the corona virus, when these recommendations will be put before the Parliament in the form of a Bill is unknown. An election is due in Queensland in October but it too may be affected.


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